Community Building

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

El Sistema Program Focuses on Immigrant Children

01-07-2020

This month marks the launch of the first El Sistema program in the country specifically dedicated to young people impacted by the immigration crisis at the southern border. The pilot program, in the border town of Tornillo, Texas, will be administered by Tocando, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s El Sistema -inspired program, and the Tornillo public school district. Children living with the acute stresses of displacement and immigration will participate in immersive music learning both during and after school. The pilot is funded by NAMM, the Leonard Bernstein Foundation, and private donations—including one from El Sistema Greece in solidarity for serving immigrant children worldwide. The U.S. El Sistema community can support this initiative by offering supplies, visits from experienced teaching artists, or by making contributions. Contact: alejandro@tocandomusicproject.org.

Editorial: January 2020

01-07-2020

At the start of every New Year, I look for inspiration, and this week I found it. “It (Still) Takes a Village,” Krystle Ford’s article also in this issue, reports on the work of the Indianapolis Symphony’s Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, which seeks to engage multiple generations of family members in its El Sistema work.

It (Still) Takes a Village

01-07-2020

What does it mean to teach with a village mentality? This is what we do every day at the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO). Families learning alongside one another is at the core of our program.

Mourning and Honoring a Student Leader

01-07-2020

The hours, days, and weeks following the death of Draylen Mason at the hands of a serial bomber in March of 2018 are difficult to look back upon. To lose any student is indescribably tragic, but losing Dray was a deep and personal anguish to all of us at Austin Soundwaves (ASW); he was, and continues to be, the heart and soul of our El Sistema-inspired program. In mourning, we learned how much we at ASW depend on our students, sometimes leaning on them just as much as (or more than) they lean on us. Their strength was remarkable during that time, and the energy that typically fuels teenage intransigence was instead diverted two-fold into leading music-making and creating remembrances for Dray. We grieved and didn’t simply move on. And though it would have been easy to focus on the perniciousness of the circumstances, we felt a grave and humbling responsibility to persist in recognizing and commemorating Draylen’s growing legacy.

Resources, December 2020

12-03-2019

If you are inspired by the lead article in this issue of The Ensemble and are interested in starting an El Sistema-inspired school, the Walton Family Foundation: Innovative Schools Program grant can help. They support educators who open all types of K-12 schools, particularly schools that look and feel truly different, achieve unprecedented outcomes, serve high-need students, and embrace successes and challenges to share with other schools.

Sistema as School: WHIN’s Ways of Being

12-03-2019

As the world has seen El Sistema stretch far beyond the barrios of Venezuela, musicians, educators and citizen artists around the globe have been experimenting with how to use the principles and ideologies of Maestro Abreu in new and exciting ways. In northern Manhattan, that experiment takes the form of the WHIN (Washington Heights & Inwood) Music Community Charter School, an inclusive full-day charter founded on the principles of El Sistema.

Partnering with Parents

11-02-2019

The People’s Music School (TPMS) is the first 100% free music school of its kind in the country. Founded in 1976 by Rita Simo, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, our school has grown into a strong community movement. We serve 1,000 students ages 5-18 through programs in the four corners of Chicago: Uptown, Albany Park, Back of the Yards and Bronzeville.

The Global Leaders Plant a Musical Seed in Tlaxcala, Mexico

10-02-2019

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Principles of Scale for Growing a Sistema System

09-01-2019

In the early days of the U.S. El Sistema movement, Maestro Abreu regularly spoke at national conferences. Often during these events, he would state, “El Sistema is not a system.” Yet we all marvelled at the interconnected structure of neighborhood núcleos, regional seminarios, state youth orchestras, and the multiple levels of youth orchestras based at Caracas’s national conservatory.

An American in Gothenburg

08-01-2019

Often, when we think about the word ‘culture,’ we think about the qualities of a communityits shared music, food, or religion. However, the word is derived from the Latin word ‘colere,’ which means to tend or cultivate; so when we take a more active perspective, we can define culture as ‘the medium for growth.’

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